Former Missouri Resident Pleads Guilty to Charges Related to Vehicle Odometer Roll Back Scheme
WILFRED J. ALBANESE, 49, formerly of Waterbury, Connecticut and Blue Springs, Missouri, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to fraud and identity theft offenses stemming from the sale of numerous used vehicles with altered odometers.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately August 2014 and October 2015, Albanese, while residing in Missouri, sold approximately 48 vehicles with altered odometers to unsuspecting purchasers. As part of the scheme, Albanese purchased high-mileage used vehicles and then used a variety of means to alter or reduce the mileage shown on the vehicles’ odometers. He also concealed mechanical issues with those vehicles by removing “check engine” lights from the instrument panels, providing buyers with phony maintenance receipts and vehicle history reports, and concealing rust and other damage to the vehicle through paint or other means. Albanese obtained Certificates of Title for the used vehicles he purchased. Under the assumed identities of the persons listed on those Certificates of Title, he advertised and sold the vehicles to customers on Craigslist.org. Most of the victim purchasers resided in Missouri.
On May 22, 2019, a grand jury in the Western District of Missouri returned a 20-count indictment charging Albanese and his accomplice with offenses related to this scheme. Albanese was located and arrested in New London, Connecticut, on July 18, 2019. The case was subsequently transferred from the Western District of Missouri to the District of Connecticut for further prosecution.
Albanese, who has been detained since his arrest, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least two years. Judge Shea scheduled sentencing for October 9, 2020.
This matter has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Natasha Freismuth of the District of Connecticut, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Casey of the Western District of Missouri.
NHTSA estimates that odometer fraud in the U.S. results in consumer losses of more than $1 billion annually. Individuals with information relating to odometer tampering should call NHTSA’s odometer fraud hotline at (888) 327-4236 or (202) 366-4761. More information on odometer fraud is available on the NHTSA website at https://www.nhtsa.gov/odometer-fraud.